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The Principles of Modern English Language Teaching (iv)
So, what is the most modern system of teaching language? What are its principles? The most modern methodology of teaching English is loosely known as Communicative English Teaching, which is usually just called ‘CLT’.
In the previous three posts, I explained three of its principles. Let’s now look at the fourth one.
CLT Principle Four: Student Centredness
In CLT, the student is the centre of the classroom. This is the only way to ensure everyone is actually engaged in the material, processing it in their minds, and therefore learning. Think about it. If the students are just sitting there doing nothing, ‘listening’ to the teacher, how do you really know if they are learning anything? What is really in their minds? They might all be looking at the whiteboard, but in their minds they are thinking …
- I want to go home.
- Why don’t I have a better boyfriend?
- This is boring.
- I don’t understand.
- I want to send a text message.
- I like the boy across the room.
In other words, no one is really listening to the teacher or learning anything. It just looks like they are.
The only way students will actually learn is if they participate in the process, and that’s what CLT tries to do. It assumes the students are intelligent individuals who bring a range of knowledge and experience into the learning environment which can be accessed and used for the benefit of all.
What this means in the classroom is that – for example, the teacher will always try to ‘elicit’ the words, grammar, and meaning from the students. The teacher will constantly ask the students questions, such as ...
- What can you see in this picture?
- Give me three words to describe it.
- What’s the difference between these two sentences?
- Which one of these is clearer? Why?
The students’ writing will be error-coded, and the students will work out the answers, with help from the other students and the teacher. And I could give you many other examples. But they all mean one thing – you, the student, are the centre of the learning.
In grammar-translation, the teacher is the centre of the classroom, and the students are treated as empty bottles to be filled with knowledge. The teacher talks, explains, and demonstrates while students passively listen (or pretend to listen).
Now, check that you know the meaning of the underlined vocabulary (also repeated below).
- to engage in (v)
- to access (v)
- to elicit (v)
- to code (v)
- to be passive (adj)
The next post will explain the CLT Principle Five.
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